Tuesday 24 April 2018

Parents facing jail sentence and a fine after son missed 243 school days in three years

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Tom Tuite

A FATHER and mother are facing a jail sentence and a fine after a judge heard their child missed at least 243 days of primary school over a three-year period.

The married couple from Dublin were prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency following concerns about the high number of days of school missed by their son whose age was not stated during the hearing at Dublin District Court on Monday.

Neither the mother or father, who moved to the UK near the end of last year, attended the hearing with the father phoning an education and welfare officer shortly before the hearing to tell him that this was a result of his “bad back”.

The officer told the court that their son missed 72 out of 182 days in the 2014 - 2015 school year, 65 out of 182 days during the 2015 - 2016 year and 106 days in the 2016 - 2017 school year. Only about 20 days could be accounted for, the court was told.

The child had been attending a school in Dublin.

It was their ninth hearing in relation to the boy’s lengthy absences from school.

The prosecution commenced in January last year and the couple attended the first three hearings only, Judge Brennan heard.

Education and welfare officer Eamon Regan said it was his belief parents were not doing enough to ensure their child went to school. He had attempted to serve school attendances notices in person but there as no answer when he called to their home. There was also no answer on a previous occasion when he attempted to talk to them about the issue.

Afterwards he served the notices by ordinary post, he said. It had been hoped the threat of legal action would improve their son’s attendance at school, the court was told.

He said the couple moved to the UK without notifying the school. When he managed to speak to the boy’s father, the man claimed his son had been enrolled in a named school in England. However, when contacted that school never heard of the boy, Judge Brennan was told.

Authorities in the UK were alerted and have made contact with the parents who are now seeking to home-school the child there, the court heard.

They could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if convicted of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school.

Judge Brennan was satisfied that prior to the commencement of legal proceedings school attendance notices had been served and they were aware of the court case.

He said the couple had shown contempt for the court by not turning up to the hearing. He said that the court was minded to impose a one-month jail sentence on the father and for the mother to be fined.

He adjourned the case until a date in April and said it would be in their interests to turn up for the next hearing.

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